Wow…The Troggs are still goin’??? That’s a reply I get very often when I send out my info, which has the facts about their recent activities. Well, that was exactly my reaction when I found a new release by the band in 1992. I just went through the one TROGGless period of my life. The years 1982 to 1992 brought absolutely no information. 1981 saw the Troggs release “Black Bottom” on New Rose Records, France…then nothing. In 1992 you could see quite a surprise TROGGS fan running home with the new TROGGS record; “Athens Andover.” More surprises: the album was coordinated & produced by THE Larry Page, heavily involved in the album are musicians from R.E.M. & “Crazy Annie” the wonderful track that starts the album, was written by no one else but Chip Taylor, who started it all by providing the band with “Wild Thing.” With the whole history in my mind & looking at all their hits, it seems almost impossible to say…but “Athens Andover” definitely is their masterpiece!
When The Troggs started with their straightforward, down-to-earth sound, rock music just entered the hippy trippy phase, which basically was leading to a dead end. Don’t get me wrong, there are great creations from those years, but as usual, if all just goes in one direction, in the end, you are that much farther away from the roots & the original strength is gone. The Troggs never lost their strength. I saw them several times at so-called “Oldies Festivals” on tv, which made quite clear that on the one hand, this means bands that play once more their hit from 20 years ago & on the other hand, you get the real timeless rock…The Troggs. Even at playback shows the band stands out, completely different compared to the rest. So what makes this band so different? Well, to be honest, I don’t know, it’s just so very obvious that they are different. Probably it is just the perfect combination, playing “the real stuff,” being “down to earth” guys with the urge to “keep on playing.” Sure, there were ups & downs, but they never thought about stoppin’ the show. According to Reg Presley, the worst period for The Troggs was the early 70’s. Here is his statement that I like so much: “…in the early ’70s, you could find a girlfriend, get married, have children while a solo was going on.” That’s the dead-end I mentioned earlier. Loads of musicians went in that direction, got stuck, then disappeared. Well, The Troggs are the band to prove that sticking to the original idea is the way to survive. There were always original members to keep on troggin’. The first one to leave was Pete Staples, the bass player. That was in 1969. But even today, people recognize him as an original Troggs member, now again working as an electrician. He never stopped playing music, still writes and records songs, which he likes to send to artists & companies. He just likes to do that, music is a natural part of his life, so it should be really interesting to hear some of those songs. In the early ’70s, the original guitar player, Chris Britton, left to run a bar in Portugal…JOY…today he is back! I guess no one else can play those raw basic rhythms & the short sharp solos as Chris can. That’s one part of the story. Staples & Britton came from the band Ten Foot Five, which became 50% of The Troggs. Singer Reg Presley & drummer Ronnie Bond came from The Troglodytes. The two stuck together until Ronnie Bond was forced to leave the band in the 80’s because of a disease. It was very sad to hear that this disease was leading to his death in 1992. Ronnie Bond was always THE Troggs’ drummer. The most urban rhythm came from his drum set. I was very lucky to see him once, understanding how he was creating this sound. I hope I’m not completely wrong but I think it was because he very seldom used the cymbals. I can still see him…smiling…banging mostly toms, hitting the snare & kicking the bass drum…I’ll never forget that. I don’t want to underrate any member of the band, but to me, “Mr. Trogg” has always been Reg Presley. This voice goes straight into your guts. I remember when I played “Athens Andover” to my good friend Rockin’ Ronnie & the room was just shakin’ with the song “Hot Stuff.” He couldn’t help but scream: “WOW, this is pure SEX!!!” But it’s all so damned natural, not this manufactured “sex thing” that you get on so many releases nowadays.
Today, the band consists of fine musicians that take the band right into the 90’s. The original members Reg Presley & Chris Britton are now joined by Peter Lucas (bass) & Dave Maggs (drums). The two didn’t come out of the blue; there is a story behind it. Peter & Dave played together in bands from 1967 to 1969. Then they went their seperate ways to meet again in a band called TRACKER in the early 70’s. Never heard about Tracker? Well, you sure heard about Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. After Dave Dee left in 1969, the rest of the band released one LP as D, B, M & T; “Fresh Ear.” This LP had the hit single “Mr. President” & is one of my all time favorite LP’s…in fact, this LP has a cult status for me. If there is one LP that offers THE perfect combination of fresh vocal harmonies, lots of acoustic guitars, basic rock & songs with an incredible unique feeling…this is it! Well, D, B, M & T changed their name to Tracker, members left & were replaced by Lucas & Maggs. Boohoohoo…no recordings…or are there any? Lucas was in The Troggs from 1974 to 1978 only to return in 1981. Lucas remembers: “Reg rang me up one Sunday afternoon & I met him in a pub in Amesbury at 7p.m. By Monday afternoon I had rehearsed for 4 hours in a garage with him & then on that Tuesday night I was gigging in London as a Trogg.” Yeah, that sounds great! When the band needed a drummer, Lucas thought of his old mate Dave…& the same procedure, Dave Maggs: “I had just flown back from Miami on that Sunday night when they got in touch with me. We rehearsed on that Monday & started a 10 day tour on that Tuesday.” So it was basically a reunion of old friends cause there is also a connection between The Troggs & Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Ian “Tich” Amey joined The Troggs for a while, then Chris Britton left.
Now, you may wonder where all this information comes from, cause it is definitely not available from the glossy music papers, which present the stuff that sells & not the soul of rock. In the early 80’s, a London lady caught The Troggs virus at a festival where she saw the band for the first time: “Wow wee, that was IT, I was hooked…after attending a few concerts & talking with various people, we realized that we faced the same problem as many other fans, there was just not enough information on future events. When we discovered there was no fan club, we decided to put our time to good use & with the blessing of the band & the ever helpful Stan Green (Troggs’ manager) we have put together this newsletter.” That statement is from the introduction which Jacqueline Ryan, the aforementioned lady, wrote for the first issue of her Troggs Fanzine “TROGG Times.” Ever since she is providing The Troggs’ fans with information that you get nowhere else. Band member profiles, detailed discographies, stories, events, gossip…everything. Sure, all information is first-hand. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet her when I was in London. I wasn’t aware how big this city really is, so “quickly hopping over to her place” was simply impossible cause I was about to leave. But we had an extensive phone call, which provided me with further details about The Troggs world.
Today, The Troggs are alive & well. They are almost as busy as during the ’60s & their music is as fresh as it always has been. If you missed the “Athens Andover” LP, start searching! “I’m convinced that in years to come, this album will become widely recognized as a landmark in R&R history,” is Larry Page’s statement from the cover of “Athens Andover.” Well, I don’t need years to realize that; it took me 45 minutes (the length of the release). An almost folky version of The Troggs this time. R.E.M. join in with many acoustic instruments, BUT…it sure is 100% Troggs. I bought it when it came out, listened to it again & again & again and…it is as fresh & exciting as on the first day. It was no problem for me to provide some indie magazines with articles & reviews about the band cause this is what the band is all about: “independent music.” The real meaning of this expression…real music straight from the heart!!! I love it!!! Keep on, I’ll stick to you forever…